Belfast Telegraph

We must applaud the brave decision of Angelina Jolie

By Jane Merrick

March is ovarian cancer awareness month and, I have to confess, I had no idea. That was until Angelina Jolie revealed, in an article in The New York Times, that she has had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent her developing the disease.

Jolie's 'Diary of a Surgery' is personal, honest and, above all, driven by a will to live. She writes about wanting to see her children grow up and to meet her grandchildren. Because of her decision to have surgery, she says: "I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer'."

She sacrifices some of her own privacy to raise awareness of the disease, with the Hollywood actress known for celebrating her own motherhood stating that she is now in the menopause and cannot have any more children.

Jolie has inherited the "faulty" BRCA1 gene, which has left her with an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer.

Not all ovarian cancers are linked to the BRCA1, so for women who do not carry this gene it is difficult to spot the warning signs.

It is not like feeling a lump in your breast - an easy thing to regularly check.

Anyone experiencing one or more of the four key symptoms - persistent pelvic, or abdominal, pain, persistent bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full and needing to wee more urgently - more than 12 times a month should go and see their GP, say cancer charities.

Just as more women went to their doctor with concerns about breast cancer after Jolie spoke out about her double mastectomy, it is without doubt that more women will become more aware of ovarian cancer and how to spot the symptoms.

While breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women and ovarian cancer is the fourth most common, the latter is more deadly because early diagnosis is so difficult.

According to Ovarian Cancer Action, the chances of living longer than five years are 43%, but the charity says that this survival rate would rise to 90% if diagnosis was made earlier.

I looked up these facts only because of Jolie's article. That is the 'Angelina Effect'.

Those who criticised Jolie for her activism against war rape did so because they are sceptical of celebrities taking up causes.

They fail to see that it is their celebrity that is exactly the point; awareness they raise goes so much further.

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